Mordallend Story Hour

Galfridus

First Post
Run away!

Littlewater, February 4, LE 654

The Flame Strike descends upon the party. Although most make their save, everyone is badly burned. Mystarion, caught by the brunt of the flames, vanishes completely. There is a pause, which Elbryn fills first. "Retreat!" he cries, and descends via the nearest rope. The others begin to follow. Jonetello, about to finish off the writhing mess of troll-flesh at his feet hears the yelling above and realizes he is about to be abandoned. Sighing, he climbs the ladder until he finds a lantern, then dumps the contents on the troll below, hoping for the best.

Atop the central tower, Malefice steps back and disappears. The tower door opens, and three ghouls followed by a horde of skeletons emerges, heading for the southwest tower. Leilen, seeing this mess, heads toward the southwest tower to assist. Magnimiliar sees his chance, and sprints down the wall and toward the central tower. Through his familiar, Malagen, he can see that the top of the tower is empty: Malefice, the wizard, and a mysterious third figure that had been there are all gone.

Mystarion feels the cold power of the Medallion of Twilight drawing him into the shadow realm. His wounds seem abated as he stands atop an empty tower. Shadows begin to fall around him, and he quickly speaks the medallion's command word, "Obilon". He reappears and immediately lapses into unconsciousness. Leilen heals him enough for Thorald to carry him away from the tower.

Inside the southwest tower, Jonetello hears snarling below him and looks down to see the ghouls entering the tower. He looks back up...and sees a ghostly image of Terdessen Loxham in front of him. "We want to help you!" Jonetello says, before he climbs the ladder and prepares to descend. The ghost follows him. "FLEE!" it wails, and Jonetello is overcome with fear. Along with the others, he descends the rope and flees. Terdessen's image remains atop the tower, quickly joined by three ghouls who snarl and lap at the blood left behind.

Magnimiliar begins to climb the wall of the central tower. He sees the wizard stir, then vanish. Cursing, he climbs to the top of the tower - to find it empty, and the door locked. He considers his options, then follows the others back to the rallying point, several hundred yards from the castle.

The group is still strung out, each retreating at their own speed, when the wizard appears again, in flight, to cast Fireball on Thorald and beat a hasty retreat toward the castle. Mystarion responds with a Fireball of his own, but the flames are weak and the wizard is only somewhat singed. He flies rapidly back to the keep. The party gathers themselves, then moves rapidly to the south, the mocking cries of troll and ghoul fading into the distance. They reach the abandoned village with a few hours of sunlight left, and decide to keep moving. A few hours after sunset, they reach the first inhabited village - but the place is small, with no tavern. They decide to continue in hopes of reaching a more substantial settlement - which they do, shortly before midnight. After banging on the tavern door, for a while, they finally get a response.

The innkeeper, named Corwin, reluctantly lets them in, then heats up some stew and some mulled cider. "Don't see many travelers this far into winter...and none at night," he says somewhat doubtfully. He complains for a while about the lack of support from the Blaumeres. "We're but a few hours from lakeside, but no, the Count sends everyone the long way around, by the road. Afraid of bringing the necromancer down on his precious islands, I say." He wishes the group luck, and asks for only a few silver in reimbursement. He is pleasantly surprised when the group tips him several gold pieces.

Greenridge, February 5, LE 654

The party discusses their next move, and decides to depart the necromancer's domain. As Magnimiliar says, "We've run this far already!" They spend several days traveling back along the road to Leston.

Wassanthid Ford, February 7, LE 654

The party is fording the Wassanthid river, the border between northern and southern Wassan, when they see a troop of Blaumere soldiers on the far bank, waving and gesturing wildly. The party looks upstream and sees a huge bulge in the river moving directly toward them. There is no time to reach either bank, so they wait as the water rises around them, engulfing their horses and coming to neck level before slowly subsiding. Oddly, they are no wetter than when they began, and the horses seem no worse for having been underwater. Mystarion and Leilen ponder the matter, and while the behavior seems in line with that of elemental creatures of water, they cannot think of a specific creature that would act in that manner.

The soldiers on the south bank are quite curious, and ask the party if they had any idea what happens. They are a garrison under the command of the Knight Commander, Pierre de Blaumere, charged with watching the river crossing, although there's not much traffic mid-winter. They ask for the names of the party members and their business, and seem impressed to hear that they were at the keep. "At least you didn't leave anyone behind," one offers. "I was up there this fall, back when that other group cleared the place out. Let me tell you, it was darned spooky when that ghost came back. Ran all the way back here, we did!"

Leston, February 11, LE 654

The party arrives in Leston, giving their names to a bored soldier at the gate. They rent several rooms at the Mailed Fist Tavern, a locale known to Jonetello as a favorite hangout for Loxham soldiers in times past, but which seems to have fallen on harder times.

Ravenfield goes into the city in search of an armorer to do some work for him, or perhaps to lend his tools so Ravenfield can do a little work. Off a back alley near the harbor, he finds Big John, a smith who seems to fit the bill. His fees for letting Ravenfield use his shop are a bit high ("Hey, I'd be missing out on my jobs, I have to make a living."), he agrees to commission a pair of bladed gauntlets which will be ready "in a couple weeks". He needs to obtain the money first, so he promises to come back tomorrow. The rest of the party spends the day bathing, tending wounds, and replacing charred clothing.

The next day, Ravenfield returns to Big John's. As he turns into the alley, a large, unpleasant-looking character raises an arm, barring his way. Past him, Ravenfield sees another large man at the far end of the alley. He hears voices from the smith's, and then a small figure emerges, and with a wave the two thugs fall in behind him. They exit the alley via the far end. Ravenfield shrugs and goes into the smith's. Big John does not seem upset or nervous (or injured), and happily takes Ravenfield's gold, even accepting an additional hundred to have the work done as quickly as possible.

Jonetello heads over to the Icicle, an inn known since Count Loxham's days as the place to go to hear the best singers and performers in Loxham. The innkeeper gives Jonetello a brief audition. After flubbing several of his own songs, Jonetello manages a decent rendition of two Loxham favorites. The innkeepers gives him a chance to prove himself in front of the crowd that evening. "Just stick to the old stuff, son," he suggests.

Mystarion visits the Mage's guild, but receives a very cold and snooty welcome from the apprentice on duty. He decides his magical research can wait.

Thorald, having learned that the only two libraries of mention are those of the Mage's Guild (which he has already seen) and that of the Archbaron, travels to Leston Keep to seek an audience with Alexander Stonecroft. He is told to return the following day.

That evening, Jonetello and several others in the party return to the Icicle. They quickly notice a very haughty man seated at a table with a halfling: this, they are told, is Rose, the strange trader they have been hearing about. His companion is Nip, a halfling newly arrived in town who, despite his rich clothing, seems a little more streetwise than is usual for this establishment. Jonetello and Thorald sit down at one table; Ravenfield and Elbryn take their own table. They all spend some time studying Rose and Nip, but observe little.

Jonetello's turn to perform comes around, and he takes the stage. He opens with an older Loxham tune, well received by the crowd. He moves onto another old tune, and plays it more truly than any in the audience have heard for a long, long time. Emboldened by his success, he tries one of his own tunes, a dirge for Kalenthas...which falls flat. He recovers with his final song, however, and finishes to considerable applause.

Meanwhile, Nip approaches Ravenfield and Elbryn. He introduces himself, buys drinks for the two, and inquires politely about their business in town. Ravenfield and Elbryn reply that they are new in town and just traveling through. Nip smiles, wishes them luck, and returns to his table, where he converses quietly with Rose.

Thorald, suspicious of this trader, decides to attempt a Detect Psionics on him. He waits for a moment in the performance when everyone is distracted, then manifests the power. He is able to determine that there are several strong auras coming from Rose, but he cannot determine their nature. He cancels the power swiftly, looking around - but no one seems to have noticed.

The innkeeper congratulates Jonetello and offers him a weekly spot, starting two nights hence. "You can even sing a couple of your new things...if you dare." Jonetello gladly accepts.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Galfridus

First Post
Episode 11: Songs and...more songs

Leston, February 13, LE 654

The next morning, Thorald makes his way to Leston Keep, ascending the narrow path that climbs beneath the keep's ancient stone towers to the Main Gate. One of the guards escorts him across the yard and through another gatehouse into the Inner Ward, and into the great hall.

A large crowd is present: guardsmen, soldiers, and noblemen, along with a scattering of merchants and commoners. The Archbaron's court is open to all, though it seems that the wealthy and gently born are best represented. A narrow aisle leads to a dias at the back of the hall, where a throne of dark wood stands empty. In front of it is a well-crafted but simpler chair of oak; in that chair sits Alexander Stonecroft, Archbaron of Wassan. A scribe, two squires, and an older man dressed in Blaumere colors stand near him. Looking up, Thorald notices guards posted on the balcony above, in addition to those stationed around the hall.

Thorald's name is announced, and he steps forward to request access to the Archbaron's library. While the crowd seems uninterested (many continuing whispered conversations of their own), Alexander listens intently and thinks for but a moment before assenting. He declares a fee of a hundred gold pieces to be paid per day, to be paid to the exchequer each morning starting two days hence. Thorald bows, thanks the Archbaron, and exits.

That evening, the group returns to the Icicle, drawn by the enigma of Rose. A woman bard, Sara Heatherly, is performing. She begins with a haunting rendition of an old Loxham ballad, recounting the Count's earliest days, then moves into a less convincing performance of a traditional Blaumere number. Although the crowd seems more bothered by the sub-par performance than the political implications, Sara grimaces before launching into a trio of simple country tunes.

While the rest of the party enjoys the performance, Magnimiliar decides to see what he can find out about Nip and Rose. Departing the Icicle, he hastens to his room in the Mailed Fist to disguise himself. He borrows some of Jonetello's spare clothes to aid in the deception, making himself up as a rough-and-tumble, small yet dangerous looking rogue - in short, as himself with different hair and clothes. Returning to the Icicle, he takes a seat at the bar and does his best to look out of place. A few minutes later, as Sara finishes her song and asks for requests, Nip strolls up and orders two glasses of wine. "On me," he says with a smile, climbing onto the seat next to Magnimiliar. "Haven't seen you here before," Nip adds, as the glasses are placed before him.

"Haven't been here before," says Magnimiliar. "I'm looking for someone who knows people in this town."

"I might fit that bill, if we're talking about the same kind of people - and I don't mean the kind who hang out in this place," retorts Nip. Magnimiliar nods, and an understanding passes between them. On stage, Sara shakes her head at a request from Jonetello, then begins another Blaumere song, her voice a little shaky. "Alright then," says Nip, "come on upstairs and I'll see what I can do for you." He hops down from his chair and heads casually for the stairway, nodding briefly at Rose.

Magnimiliar follows a few moments later. Nip's room is on the second floor in the back. It is large but simply furnished. A small leather bag in the corner is the only personal item in evidence. Nip motions for Magnimiliar to sit and takes a chair near the door, his hands near the knives at his belt. "Go on," he says, and listens.

Magnimiliar presents himself as Darius, a man from out of town who is looking to set up a protection racket in town. Nip, he says, seems like the kind of person who would know the right people in Leston to help him get started. Nip nods and smiles. "You came to the right man, Darius. I know the people - not that I would get involved in something like that - but I think I can help you out." He leans forward. "And, you know, I think my employer would like to meet you as well. Not that he is involved in that sort of thing - but he likes to, shall we say, hedge his bets." Magnimiliar is less enthusiastic about meeting Rose, but is quite willing to meet with Nip's other contacts. The two head downstairs (separately, of course).

Meanwhile, Mystarion summons the innkeeper and inquires about available rooms. A servant shows him the few that are open, and Mystarion settles on the White Room, a spacious chamber near the front of the inn, over the common room but mostly insulated from the noise below. He pays for several days in advance, then returns to the common room. Sara is singing "Sygwerdan's Glory," a deviously written piece comprised of verses that praise the dragon's achievements while implying through complex symbolism that the dragon himself will someday fall prey to the warriors of Rellenor. The crowd cheers at each verse, relishing the intricate lyrics as well as Sara's musical talent. He waits, listening to the somewhat-amusing human music, until Nip and Magnimiliar return. He then heads back upstairs to cast Clairaudience targeted at Rose's table...

"...some guy, Darius, says he's new. Wants to set an operation - standard protection racket, sounds like."

Rose speaks, his voice cultured and calm. "Will he succeed?"

"Beats me! Prolly not, but you never can tell. I told him you wanted to meet with him-that OK?"

"Perfectly. Continue-wait. What is that? Do you see that...no, right there?"

Mystarion quickly dismisses the spell, then Arcane Locks his door and window, but no one comes knocking. He retires for the evening.

When the performance ends, Jonetello spends some time chatting with Sara, who is can't wait for Jonetello's turn tomorrow night. A small group of bards cluster around them, and conversation soon turns to Rose. No one knows who he really is, but nobody with any brains believes his story about being from eastern Rellenor. The best guess is that he's some sort of foreign merchant - there's a pool for whoever gets it right. One bard tells Jonetello about the time some local thugs decided to jump Rose - either Rose or Nip know what they are doing, because three were found dead the next day and one vanished completely. Since then, nobody bothers Rose.

Leston, February 14, LE 654

The next day passes quietly as most of the party rests or does some light shopping. Thorald shuts himself in his room and begins work on a pair of Boots of Thought's Speed commissioned by Jonetello. Magnimiliar spends the afternoon carefully preparing his disguise, aided by Jonetello. Mystarion remains in his room for most of the day.

As evening approaches, the party returns to the Icicle. Jonetello begins with a series of old Loxham favorites, awing the crowd with his skill and talent. Mystarion comes down from his room and finds a quiet corner, waiting for an opportune moment to sneak in a divination spell or two on Rose. His moment comes when Jonetello begins a song with a well-known chorus. As the crowd joins in, Mystarion casts Arcane Sight, and studies Rose intently. He can see several aura: one, a divination aura, emanates from a charm around Rose's neck; another divination aura lingers around Rose himself, as from a spell cast several days ago. Lastly, Mystarion perceives an aura of moderate strength active around Rose - at first it seems like a Transmutation spell, but as Mystarion studies it, he can see the dark pulsings of necromancy beneath the surface. It appears that someone has attempted to disguise the spell's aura, something Mystarion did not know was even possible to do. After observing a lack of auras around Nip, Mystarion lets the spell drop and heads upstairs to ponder what he has seen. Something about the aura is familiar, but he cannot recall what...

Jonetello's song brings the house to its feet. Emboldened, Jonetello decides to sing one of his own songs, something new. As he begins, a string on his lute snaps. He plays on, chording around the missing string, finishing the song but losing the audience. At the back of the room, the innkeeper sighs. "Stick to the old stuff, son." As Jontello finishes, Nip approaches Magnimiliar and suggests that now would be a good time to meet with Rose. Magnimiliar hesitates, then agrees. Nip escorts him upstairs to Rose's room, where the merchant is waiting, seated behind a large table covered with an intricately embroidered tablecloth. Rose begins the conversation by asking about Magnimiliar's plans and goals. When Magnimiliar proves reluctant to provide details, Rose begins to talk about his plans. He has been arranging several trade contracts and agreements over the winter, but is concerned that as spring nears, the other, more established merchants in the area will try to put him out of business. To avoid this, Rose is seeking forces to protect his caravans...as well, perhaps, as a group to "proactively" disable the caravans of his competitors. If Magnimiliar can provide such a group, Rose says, he is sure a profitable arrangement could be reached. When Magnimiliar expresses interest, Rose suggests a meeting with Magnimiliar's partners to plan further. Magnimiliar tells Rose that his partners are out of town and currently unavailable. "Perhaps at a later date, then," declares Rose, rising and motioning that the meeting is at an end. As Magnimiliar leaves, he realizes that something about Rose's demeanor is familiar -- perhaps his speech, or the way he held his glass - but he can't place it for sure...

Downstairs, Jonetello switches back to old favorites, ending the night with a respectable rendition of "The Ballad of Greenhills". Sara is waiting for him at the edge of the stage, eyes wide with admiration. "You really know how to play!" she says with a smile. Jonetello agrees, then invites her for a drink. She agrees happily, and the two depart hand in hand.

Leston, February 15, LE 654

After an...enjoyable night at Sara's place, the couple are awakened by a banging on the door. Dressing quickly, Sara opens the door and a thin, pale man in a faded minstrel's outfit pushes inside.

"Sara, have you heard? The Knight-hello, who are you?" A neutral expression appears on the minstrel's face as he eyes Jonetello. Sara quickly intervenes.

"Louis, this is Jonetello, the new act at the Icicle last night, remember? Jonetello, this is my friend Louis." The two men exchange curt nods before Louis continues.

"Anyway, Pierre de Blaumere is dead-killed somehow! Messenger came in this morning and went straight to the palace. I thought you might get the story through one of your friends up there."

Sara nods, looking concerned and excited at the same time. "Pierre de Blaumere is-was, now - the Knight Commander," she explains to Jonetello, who knows darned well who the old tyrant was but nods anyway. He and Sara head toward Leston Keep, where Sara passes the guards with a smile and heads toward the kitchen, where a stocky woman with a flour-stained apron approaches her. The woman, who Sara introduces as Anna, says that from what she heard, the Knight Commander and his wife were found dead in their cottage, smack in the middle of the garrison camp by the river crossing. Both had been torn apart by some creature, but none of the guards heard a thing all night. Moreover, they found a note on the bodies from the necromancer Malefice. The note warned the Blaumeres not to attack the necromancer any more. "You can imagine how worked up they are in the castle," finishes Sara, nodding her head seriously before returning to her baking. Jonetello bids Sara farewell and returns to tell the group this news.

"Is this good or bad?" asks Magnimiliar. "Who was this guy?"

"Well, you can see I'm shedding tears over the Knight Commander, leader of the Blaumeres against the Loxham rebels," says Jonetello, his face sarcastically dry. He pauses. "But I'm sure his wife was quite innocent in the matter." The party spends some time pondering the apparent consequences of their actions.
 

Galfridus

First Post
Thorald's Adventure, Part 1

Before the next update, there are a couple events which took place prior to the start of this story hour which are soon to become relevant.

The "Calkyrix" is the current name for a creature which has plagued Thorald’s home village of Magehaven for centuries. The last time the Calkyrix appeared, Thorald was forced to flee Magehaven and has not returned since then, although he hears from his friend Selphyra from time to time.

What follows is the accounting provided to Thorald’s player of what took place while he was absent from the game.

-------------------------------------------------

The group decided to reach Merelin by the land route, south to the ancient East-West Road, east along that road, and then north into Merelin. The fact that this road lay within Sygwerdan's land did not seem to deter anyone.

After meeting the hill giant, the group rested and slept while Entia carved the giant's club. During the night, a group of 20 ogres passed by. They were going to bash the group, but Jonetello woke the giant, who said they couldn't because you guys were in the process of paying a toll.

The next day, the group rode eastward, encountering a number of unpleasant creatures: gnolls, more ogres, krenshar, and a ghoul which led Jonetello into an assassin vine. They stopped to rest -- and were attacked by a mummy. The next day, they rode into a field occupied by three giant wasps. Entia summoned an eagle to distract the wasps, but two chased the party for a while, stinging Jonetello several times. That night, an angry brown bear approached the party. Entia used Speak With Animals, then Animal Friendship to gain a powerful but hungry ally. Jonetello had to lift the food up into a tree to save it.

The next night, a heavy mist accompanied by rain settled in just after sunset. Out of the mist came three strange figures -- two boars and a raven. The raven looked at you and asked if you were Thorald Stone. You declined to answer, as did the rest of the group. The raven whispered to a boar, then declared that you must be Thorald Stone. The boars then turned into ravens, and the trio flew off into the woods. They returned after a while, and suggested that the group wrap their weapons against the rain. Grugg and Entia noticed that this was a spell, but Jonetello thought it was a great idea and proceeded to wrap his bow and crossbow. Then, three imps appeared and attacked. They declared that they were there to fight Thorald's friends, but not Thorald, so Thorald was unable to attack them (Concussion would have done wonders!).

Two days later, the group finally rejoined the well-traveled section of the road, after meeting a strange old man who seemed mildly interested in Entia for her beauty. The group traveled to Merelin without any further encounters, arriving at sunset and taking up residence in a local inn. The next morning, Thorald departed for the mage's guild to continue his research. In the meantime, Kalenthas had gained the power to cure Jonetello of the disease that the mummy had given him. At that point, two new characters arrived: a half-elf ranger and an elf wizard. The wizard arrived seeking Jonetello and Kalenthas, with a message from the Order of the Iris that they had a mission for the group involving Kanavin Loxham, who is apparently staying with the elves. According to the wizard, he cannot stay there any longer. The group made preparations to leave the next day. Jonetello also traveled to the mage's guild to sell some magic items and get a couple identified. Later that evening, it was discovered that Grugg had been arrested for breaking up a tavern, and was accused of murder. [Grugg's player has not shown up in a long time; Grugg is departing the group.]

However, you had a much more interesting time. The mage's guild was reluctant to let you research, and informed you outright that many of their tomes would be off limits to you. Apparently, a wizard had stolen a powerful tome or spell earlier this year, and as a result the guild is being very careful about who they let into their libraries. They did, however, have a letter for you:

To Thorald Stone, traveller

Greetings from your homeland! Master Ian McEwen arrived from Merelin just last week, to deliver a Tataiafar scroll to Master Kelefar the Diviner. I hope you receive this note -- Master McEwen promised he would see it delivered to you should you come to Merelin. I asked if you might study there, but the Master said that someone had stolen a powerful spell just this year and the Archmage had ordered the libraries closed. What a terrible thing to do!

I’m almost able to cast the locking spell of the 2nd circle -- Enam says I need to focus more on my ward-gesturing. I suppose he’s right, since the spell keeps sticking the doorknob and not the door! I want to learn to enchant objects to speak -- then I could send you spoken messages -- but Enam says "Abjure first, my dear." Typical!

Your parents miss you -- your mom most of all. I think your dad talked to Kelefar or one of our diviners, because he seems more confident. Most people just act like you were never here, except when the Calkyrix comes up. Oh -- Calkyrix is Master Trophtin’s name for the creature. He has some theory about it, and why it came back so soon, but it never makes sense to me, and since he can’t predict when it will return I don’t see how it makes much difference anyway.

It’s warm here as I write this, but it’s getting cold at night, and I can see the snows are farther down the mountain peaks than before. There’ll be frost on the windows here by the time you read this -- which means the passes will soon be closed, and I will have to miss you until spring.

Signed,

Selphyra Caldyrin

Reading the letter makes you think of home, but you have studies to attend to. Master McEwen is not present -- the apprentices of the guild tell you no more, only that he is not available for audiences at this time. You return to your studies of Ardinor, but the books they allow you to see don’t seem to hold much. Toward the end of the day, you find an ancient tome counting various minutae of the Empire (taxes, population, etc.). In that tome is a reference to separate atlas volume containing a map of the Empire. You ask the apprentice if the atlas is available; he says that they certainly have it, but that he will have to check with a Master before you can see it.

Happy with that success, you leave the guild house and start walking back to the inn. The night is cool and clear, the stars shining brightly. Then, you realize that they are shining a little too brightly...you turn, and see a large tentacle of darkness groping toward you from the sky. The Calkyrix--here?!? You run down the street as fast as you can, calling on all your powers, followed by screams from those you pass by. You feel a cool prickling at your back, but see nothing when you dare to look over your shoulder.

At last, you come to an open square, about half the distance to the inn. You dash across, but suddenly you catch sight of something in the corner of your eye. Above you, to the left and the right, the sky ripples into two globes of inky darkness, which distort as they ooze down toward you. You can see stars shining through the blackness, but the constellations are not ones that you know. Run as you might, the creature envelopes you once again in its grasp. The screams of the townspeople fade away as a sound of rushing wind (or perhaps water) overtakes you, and an icy coldness sweeps through your body. You steel mind and body against it, to no avail. The stars whirl and spin, until at last the noise stops.

You lie on a bed of soft grass, looking up at stars that seem closer and somehow sharper, as if the air between you and them was more pure than that of Rellenor. You try to stand -- but the cold has weakened you. You manage, with some effort, to raise your head and look around. Blue moonlight illuminates a mountainside meadow, wildflowers and close clipped grass rolling down the slope and out of sight. Vague shadows of mountain peaks surround you. You lie back, exhausted, not knowing what you will do: once again stranded without water or food.

Suddenly, there are shapes standing around you -- human, but dressed strangely, like acrobats or performers in a play.

"What is it," one asks softly. The response comes in a language you do not understand, the words seeming to blend with the cold mountain breeze. They converse briefly in that language, then return to the common tongue. "He is of the earth," one said, and they lean toward you. "I am of Stone" is your last thought before consciousness flees.

***

"One appears in the Plaza of Harmony. The tall, eternal flame burns in the center of the square, warming the pure mountain breeze that blows down from the heights. Deep, dark pools of water glisten in the starlight, sparkling as fountains send their droplets leaping into the sky and cascading downward. And beneath your feet lies stone, pure stone from the deeps of the hills, stone laid down in the time before time began."

"Leaving the Plaza, one enters the Avenue of Legacy. Statues, masterful statues, depict men long dead, their memories captured only in solemn stone gazes that watch over the marble-paved avenue. Marble pillars line the way toward the Arch of Great Victory. Larger than life, the figures on the arch fight their triumphant battle in silence as the avenue passes beneath. On the underside, vibrant painted hues preserve the moment of history as one general surrenders to another."

"Past the Arch lies the Great Square, thousands upon thousands of colored flagstones laid out in beautiful patterns of blue, gold, and silver. Ancient villas and castles surround the square, their walls echoing the cheers of the gathered crowd. A wide open path crosses the square, corner to corner, marking the lane toward the Emperor’s Palace…"

You open your eyes. A ceiling of worked stone is above you, carved in abstract designs of wind and wave. Turning your head, you see a pale-skinned young woman with light blond hair tied back, pale blue eyes, and a vibrantly green shirt, made of a thin fabric you do not recognize. Her voice, high and pure, falters as you look at her. She blinks once and smiles, then claps her hands. "You are awake! I will fetch the others!" She rises and moves away. Her trousers are of a similar fabric, seeming far too light for the cold air of the chamber you are in. As she speeds away, almost seeming to float out of the room, a bitter wind blows across you. You shiver, lifting the thick quilt over your shoulders and sinking back onto the soft bed. A fluttering curtain catches your eye; suddenly, you notice that the room is encircled by wide stone windows, covered only by light curtains that twist and blow in the cold wind. Beyond, you catch sight of emerald fields and high slopes…and then weariness returns, and you sleep.

***

When again you awaken, an old man is seated beside the bed. Light from a fire flickers across the ceiling, turning his white-peppered-with-blond hair a deep reddish shade. He is dressed similarly to the woman, though the color of his garments is hard to discern. His face is more wrinkled and weathered than the woman’s, but is similar – not like a father to his daughter, but rather like one Vellander to another.

The man speaks, his voice deep and rich, like an oboe. "My name is Kradiat, and I welcome you into our village. You may enjoy our hospitality until you have recovered."

"Where am I?" you ask, still feeling a little dizzy. The fire crackles, and a slight wind disturbs the curtains around the room.

Kradiat spreads his hands. "You are in our village. It has no name, though you may call it Gienmordal if it pleases you. I am the leader of our people, and here you may rest until the time has come to resume your travels."

"My travels?"

Kradiat nods, a extra wrinkle creasing his forehead. "Yes, your travels. You arrived rather—ah, I see. Your arrival was not your own doing." A shudder grabs you briefly, and you shake your head as it passes. "Well, then." He ponders a moment. "Are there others who would pursue you here? Are you an outlaw?" You shake your head again, and Kradiat remains silent.

"It seems I must inquire perhaps further than custom would allow into your doings and your goings," Kradiat says at last. "Tell me of yourself and your past, and then we will talk of your present." He gestures for you to begin, and leans back in his chair.

"My name is Thorald, Thorald Stone. I came from the kingdom of Rellenor…" A brief frown crosses Kradiat’s face; the name does not seem familiar to him. "That is not where I come from originally, but it is where I was when I was taken away…"

Gradually, in bits and pieces, you tell Kradiat of your adventures in Rellenor: your arrival in Loxham; your brief battle against the forces of the necromancer Malefice, where the ranger Thorfinn met his death and a troll nearly caused the end of you all; the strange visions that appeared on the hill the night after the battle; your return to Leston and brief pursuit of the demon Seriya; your journey to Merelin, capital of Rellenor, through the lands of Sygwerdan; and the sudden appearance of the creature of darkness. The telling takes some time, and you are weary before it is done.

Kradiat has many questions, and often prompts you into discussing details of Rellenor that you consider minor, or beneath notice. "This Rellenor, how far is it from Tataiafar?" he asks, referring the ancient empire which you had been studying in your last days in Leston.

"It…is within the bounds of the Tataiafar Empire," you say, your voice weak. "In what was the province of Mordallend," you add.

"Mordahllend," Kradiat corrects you absently. "So…well, that is no matter. And the kingdom allies itself with dragons?" You spend some time explaining the League of Sygwerdan, as best you understand it. "Interesting…and unfortunate," Kradiat concludes. "It is, however, no matter of mine." He looks at you more closely. "Ah – I have been a poor host and allowed you to tire without refreshment. He stands and claps his hands." At once, the smells of a rich meal waft through the room. Kradiat steps away from the bed, toward a stone table. He picks up a few small vials, sprinkling a little something from each over a series of bowls and plates. "Here, eat this," he says, presenting a tray with several unfamiliar dishes and a cup of cool water. He watches for a while as you eat, then moves to one of the windows, looking out into the moonlight. The food is strange to you, and very spicy – but good nevertheless. You eat eagerly. When you are done, Kradiat takes your tray, then adds several logs to the fire.

"I think there are two more items we need discuss this evening before our business is done," he says, settling down in his chair once more. "The first is Ardinor. You say you were seeking Ardinor, and I presume this means you have the power…" He trails off, and you realize that you have sat up in your surprise and amazement.

"You know of Ardinor?" you ask, unable to conceal your shock at this news.

"You do not?" Kradiat regards you. "Of course…I did not realize how far your kingdom had fallen." He considers. "Yes, I know of Ardinor, but I do not think it wise to tell you any more." He raises a hand. "No, I will not budge, though in time who knows what may come." His eyes grow distant for a moment. "I will wish to hear of your powers, should you have any, but that can wait. For now, let us move back in time to your origins…before you came to Rellenor. From what land do you hail?"

You hesitate a moment, but realize that you probably owe your life to this man, and that you have no real reason to mistrust him. "I come from a village, a village of wizards well to the south of Rellenor. The village is called Magehaven." You spend some time describing the village, naming several of the chief wizards at Kradiat’s insistence.

"In the south of Mordahllend…that would be Nardhellend, most likely, do you know that name?" You nod, having seen it in your research as a sub-province of the ancient Empire. Kradiat nods in response. "It may be that I have heard of this village of yours, from what you say of it. It does not seem likely that two such places exist in what has become the wastelands of Mordahllend."

Kradiat smiles and shakes his head. "Well, you have lived an interesting life, Thorald Stone, and you seem an honest tale-teller to me." He rises from his chair. "Rest now, and I shall consider what I have learned from you. When you have rested, you may depart, if that is your wish." He bows briefly and exits, parting the curtains and leaping nimbly through one of the large windows, which you now see extends almost to the ground. The thought comes to you—even if you wished to depart, how would you find your way home?

***

(Continued...)
 

Galfridus

First Post
Thorald's Adventure, Part 2

Tiesa returns the next day, bringing you water and more of the village’s strange food, which you consume eagerly. In response to your questions, she only smiles and shakes her head. "You will learn more when the time comes." She leaves through one of the windows (a different one than Kradiat used), and you perceive that the room is on a steep hill; from the view afforded you, you can see no ground directly outside any of the windows. You spend the day resting, stronger than the day before but still weak.

The day after you are awakened by Kradiat. Several others stand in the chamber, dressed in blues, reds, and greens: an elderly man, a red-haired woman, and a young man with the glint of chain armor beneath his shirt. All seem unbothered by the cold, wet breeze blowing through the room. "Thorald Stone," Kradiat declares, "you are welcome in this village until you have rested and recovered, as I have previously said. However, it occurred to me that perhaps you wished to remain longer, as your future travels seem uncertain at best. In that light, the village will have you for a season, as long as you agree to perform three tasks that we shall name." He pauses. "You may consider this, if you like, but the name and nature of the tasks will not be revealed."

You think for a few moments, under the gazes of the four villagers. "I do not need more time – I have no way to get where I need to go, and no way to know how to get there. I accept your offer."

Kradiat nods, and the four bow. "Then it is agreed." The other three turn and depart through separate windows. Beyond, the dawn light glows on a steep mountain slope. Kradiat sits beside your bed once again. "Your tale, of Rellenor, and Magehaven – the Head of Artisans agreed to accept that as your first task." He smiles briefly. "And now I have a promise to keep. Today I shall tell you what I can of our village. Tomorrow, I think, you should be well enough to see it for yourself."

"We dwell high in the mountains, alone. There are no others nearby, just wilderness and the terrors that wilderness conceals. You did well to stay here; I do not think you have the power to survive alone, even if were able to determine the direction you might take."

"We were established here, and in many other places, as sites of meeting, of negotiation, and of peaceful retreat. In the days of your empire, we were numerous and our places plentiful. But those times passed, and in the region you know, we are the only remnant." He eyes you closely. "We are not human, as you may have guessed, but I think that matters little for your purposes, or ours." He shrugs. "We are human enough in most things. But more than that, the details of our purposes, of the history that we know, I cannot tell you. Some may be made clear, by those beyond myself in authority. We are not evil, by any measure that I am aware of, although you may find us strange or foreign." You begin with a question, but he raises his hand. "Enough for now – I have another matter to attend to." He rises and strides toward a window. "Tomorrow, you shall see for yourself."

***

A strange creaking sound awakens you the following day. Something seems to be scratching at the floor. Then, suddenly, a metal hinge squeaks open, and a large wooden object crashes to the floor just beyond your bed. You sit up in surprise, as Tiesa rises into view.

"Good morning!" she calls, then puts a hand to her mouth. "Oops, forgot something!" She ducks down, and you hear a clattering from what be a room beneath yours. "Just a moment!" her voice calls from below, echoing off stone walls. Then there is a series of creakings, and she appears again, climbing up from below. "Now, do you think you can stand today?"

You nod, and slowly rise from the bed. Your feet feel a little shaky, but soon you feel confident that you are recovered from your ordeal. You make your way toward the nearest window, but Tiesa stops you. "Oh no—let’s go down first, and get a view from the outside, shall we?" She leads you to the foot of the bed, where an old-looking ladder peaks up from a wide trap door. "I’ll go down first, and you can follow," she calls, dropping through the trap door, her hands skimming the edges of the ladder. You hear her feet strike ground below, then she calls out, "Alright, come down!"

You descend slowly, into a dim and dusty room. Light streams through a small doorway, revealing stone walls and a packed earth floor. Supplies are stacked in the room: cloth, wood, chests, strange curved swords, chain armor, etc. Tiesa stands by the door, gesturing. "Come on, outside!" You walk as quickly as you are able to the doorway and pass through, staring at what lies beyond.

The village lies on a high meadow, nestled between several stern mountain peaks. Long fields of grass slope gently away from a series of ancient, graceful stone towers. Several people are visible, all dressed in the same light, brightly colored fabric: a smith at work in an open air forge; a gardener tending to her herbs; a pair of men engaged in swordplay, clearly at practice. The sky is a pure blue; beneath it, lines of mountaintops stacked one behind another recede into the distance. The sight reminds you of Velland, while at the same time seeming unlikely anything you have ever heard tell of or seen before.

"Like it?" asks Tiesa, then dashes away. You follow for a few steps, then turn back to look at the tower from which you came. The ground floor is featureless, ancient blocks of stone carved smooth and laid in an even circle. Above, however, the windows you had seen from the inside appear in the round wall, their sills carved in elegant and subtle designs too detailed to make out from the ground. The tower rises for another three floors, and is topped with battlements of a strange curved design unlike the primitive towers of Velland or even the more refined castles of Rellenor. As you watch, a man parts the curtains of one window, and steps outside – then drifts gracefully to the ground beside you.

"Ah, I had brought you breakfast, but perhaps you will have it later." The man nods toward the tray in his hands, then rises back toward the window, a gentle breeze following behind. "I shall leave your meal within," he calls from above, and disappears once more behind the curtain.

You turn to Tiesa, who by now is halfway to another tower. "Can you do that?" you call.

Tiesa laughs. "Of course I can, silly!" She rises into the air and glides toward you until she is directly over you. "Kradiat didn’t tell you much, did he?" You shake your head and follow her into the village.

You spend the day exploring and discover several things of interest. The village has no farmland, cattle, crops, beyond several spice gardens and a few fruit trees. The villagers seem to be able to summon food by magic, although Tiesa insists that some spices are needed to improve the taste somewhat. In contrast to the lack of farmers, however, the number of artisans and tradesmen seems incredible. Nearly everyone one seems to have a trade: carving, carpentry, weaving, smithing (steel, silver, gold), jewelry and several you do not even recognize. You can see no roads leading from the village, and no sign of civilization in the lands beyond; the entire day, no one is seen to arrive or depart. You wonder how such a small village can find or afford the materials required for so many crafts: perhaps they are summoned by magic as well. Tiesa smiles, but declines to answer. "I can’t tell you anything – they won’t let me," she repeats more than once, nodding toward a nearby elder figure or tower.

Tiesa does, however, tell you a little about herself. Her people must be extremely long-lived; she is the youngest, she tells you, and that by no short measure. In fact, you see no children at all, and beyond Tiesa only one or two who might be younger than twenty (in human terms, anyway). She enjoys flight, and the mountain breezes, "which makes me of air, of course," but hasn’t yet settled on a craft. "I like clothes, but weaving is so dull; and I tried carving, but cut my hand and that was no good." She seems happy in the village, but also glad to have someone new to talk to. "You will stay a while, won’t you?" You are not sure what to say, since you do not know yourself what the future holds.

The next day, a bit of the future is revealed. Kradiat enters your chamber, soon after you have finished breakfast. "Your second task is upon you," he declared, then leads you down the ladder and outside, to the edge of the village. "I believe this task to be within your merits. It is not something that we could not do ourselves, but rather something which the Head of Soldiery considers an adequate measure of your mettle. You may decline, if you wish, but it will not look well in the eyes of the village."

"I will try," you say.

Kradiat nods. "Good. Down this slope lies a narrow valley – you will find a stream in your path which will lead the way. Follow this valley to a tower of dark stone – you will know the one, though there may be others." He pauses, and looks at you. "Inside the tower, a creature has taken up residence, a creature that will in time threaten our village. Deal with this creature, and your second task will be complete." He gestures toward the valley. "Go now, and you may return before night has fallen."

You journey down the slope and into the valley, the slopes of two mountains coming together to form a narrow shaded gap leading gradually down. You find the stream bubbling in its gravel path, and follow it almost until noon, when you spot the narrow peak of a stone tower poking above the lip of the slope ahead of you. You move forward slowly, watch the rest of the tower reveal itself. The tower is square, unlike those of the village, and decorated with strange carvings and figures from top to bottom. It appears ancient, and long abandoned, though still whole. You ponder the challenge that awaits you as you approach. Perhaps the creature can be reasoned with – and perhaps not. You decide that a rapid entrance would be most wise. Taking a deep breath, you run the final furlong to the tower. Summoning the strange powers within you, you strengthen your skin, providing a measure of armor, and dash up the wall and onto the parapet that lies halfway up the side.

You look around, seeing a dark doorway to either side, when a shadow falls on you from above. You have time to turn before a winged creature descends, landing on the battlement beside you. Its gray complexion matches that of the tower’s stone. A claw rakes across your shoulder, drawing blood. The touch is cool to your skin, and rough like rock. You step back toward a doorway, summoning bolts of force that strike the creature, knocking it off balance. It steps forward, swiping with its claws, biting, and goring with the large stone horns that protrude from its head. You are bloodied in several places, but none of the wounds is critical. Again you step back toward the doorway, hoping that other forces do not lie in wait beyond, and send your energies against the creature, which seems to withstand them somewhat better. You duck into the doorway as the creature strike again; its wings keep it from coming as close as it would like, and its claws sweep past you. From the protection of the door, you summon force bolts once again, feeling the power drain from you and strike the creature full on. Small bits of stone crumble from its brow and horns, and it shrieks at you before taking to the air. You spend a moment resting, as the creature rounds the tower and vanishes from sight. The doorway behind you is dark, so you summon light and peer within. A bare room greets your glance – then suddenly, a figure appears on the parapet outside. You whirl to see a villager, the man in chain mail who had stood behind Kradiat when he welcomed you into the village.

"Well fought," the man says, his voice deep and gravelly. He extends a hand. "Come, I will return you to the village. Your task is complete: the gargoyle has fled." He takes hold of you, then lifts into the air, flying slowly back toward the village. That night, as a elderly woman tends to your wounds, you reflect on the power that you have harnessed in the short time you have been away from Magehaven and your draconic mentor.

You rest over the next few days, healing your wounds – not confined to bed, but making sure you do not tax yourself unduly. The village seems to have a consistent routine: meals are eaten, the same groups congregating at the same times each day; the smith hammers, the gardener weeds, the weaver emerges to show his latest creation to the sun and clouds. Tiesa speaks with you daily, but only for a brief time. "They don’t want me spending all my time with you," she pouts, before rising to the top of the main tower. You cannot blame them; someday you will be leaving, and clearly they see that she might be tempted to leave with you.

Over a week later, you are sitting on the grass, watching the smith produce another of the strange, curved swords used by the villagers, when a sudden silence falls over the village. The smith looks up, toward a tower, then down the hillside. At the same time, the gardener stands and stares in the same direction. The swordsmen halt their practice, one taking a step toward the slope before halting. Then, at the same time, all of them simply disappear, swirling away into a sudden breeze.

"Tiesa? Kradiat?" you call, but no one responds. You hear a howling noise coming from the hillside, and move in that direction to investigate. What you see chills your soul.

A large force of humanoids – ogres, by the look of them – are marching up the hill, clubs in hand. Before them run wolves – no, worgs – howling as they approach. The closest ogre spots you and bellows. The wolves begin to close in. You prepare yourself, wondering where the villagers have gone. There will be little you can do by yourself, but you are ready to try.

Suddenly, Tiesa is at your side. "I knew they would forget!" she sighed, exasperated. "Here, take my hands," she adds, turning you away from the oncoming horde. "They won’t want you in the fire, so here we go!" She closes her eyes, and a bitterly cold wind envelops you in a whirling embrace. The sky seems to descend, enveloping stone, grass and water in a haze of clear blue. You close your eyes, as the growling of ogres fades and is lost in the wail of the endless breeze. Suddenly you are falling; Tiesa’s grasp grows firmer, and she catches you. "Hey, you can open your eyes!"

You open them, looking up to see Tiesa smiling down at you. Then you look down. There is nothing below you – nothing but sky, endless sky punctuated by clouds and tiny specks, like birds over the sea. You look all around, and see nothing but hazy blue. The wind is bitterly cold, and swift as a winter storm. Tiesa’s hands jerk, as if she is pulling you away. "It’s alright, Thorald," she says with a smile. "Never been here before, have you?" Suddenly, you see a large piece of stone, floating in mid air over your shoulder. Pillars and stone carvings decorate one side, but as quickly as you look, the stone turns in place, presenting a bleak, rough face. "Don’t worry, you’ll be fine," Tiesa assures you, lowering you to a small ledge. She produces a small stick of spice from her pocket. "Here, break this, then eat it." You follow her instruction, and a warmth gradually fills your body, countering the bitter cold of the wind. "They’ll give it to me for that, but what else could I do?" she mutters.

You remain on the rock, drifting in emptiness, for more time than you can count. Tiesa seems distracted, perhaps even scared, and says nothing. Finally, she sighs and stands, taking your hands once more. "Ready? Alright, here we go!" The wind rises once again, and then you fall into darkness. The wind subsides. You are standing on grass once more, grass slick with something. Pulling away from Tiesa’s grasp, you summon light and look down to see the slashed corpse of an ogre, its blood seeping onto the mountain grass. Others lie nearby, scatter all about the village. Tiesa takes your hand again, and leads you silently into your chamber. "Ssssh," she insists, as she prepares to take her leave. "I couldn’t tell you anyway, so don’t ask." She drifts through a window and into the night.

You arise the next day and look out the window. The bodies of the attackers have been gathered into a large pile and set alight. The smoke from the burning rises high into the sky, and the flames flicker with vicious intensity. You descend and approach the fire, hoping that no villagers fell during what must have been a difficult combat.

Suddenly, the flames bow and hiss, humbled by a tremendous wind which blows through the village from behind you. You turn, and are awed by the appearance of a giant man, easily ten feet tall, his legs and feet fading into the air, drifting above the ground. His dress reminds you of the villagers, but the delicate embroidery, glistening gems, and sheer grace of design surpass the villager’s clothing utterly. The man seems akin to them, but at the same time beyond them. The man regards you.

"Human, why have you come to this place," he speaks, his voice deep but resonant, like a woodwind instrument. You start to speak, but the man turns away from you. Kradiat has emerged from his tower, and floats mid-air, in a kneeling position. Around the village, the other villagers approach and do likewise. There is a long silence, during which the man turns to and fro, looking at different villagers, never at you.

At long last his gaze returns to you. "It seems you have profited from the hospitality of my subjects, whom I cannot fault in propriety or generosity." He raises a hand to forestall anything you might say. "You will speak when you are directed to – and I will only so direct you once, when I am ready. Your time in this place is at an end, though I hold you or they in no fault for what was done. In time, you may return here, though to do so in ignorance would be an unwise course to follow." He approaches you, descending toward the ground, his muscular figure towering over you. Moved by an unknown impulse, you kneel, mimicking the villagers around you. "Prepare to depart from this place, Thorald Stone of Magehaven." You glance up to see Tiesa waving at you, a regretful smile on her face.

"But…what of the third task…" you begin, before recalling the restriction against speech.

The man smiles, his eyes glinting in the sunlight. "I had freed you from it – but as you have broken your silence and spoken, it shall be reinstated…at a later time. Do not concern yourself about when that time will come. Now!" He claps his hands, and a whirlwind takes you in its grasp. In the blink of an eye, you are deposited on a windy mountaintop, the great figure of the man beside you.

"I know more than you may guess of whence you came, and shall respect the hospitality you were offered by returning you not to the place, but to the people with whom you last associated." He pauses. "In addition, I grant you my hospitality as well. If there is anything I could grant to assist you, speak now and name it, before we return to the lands which you know." The man pauses, awaiting your answer.

------------------------------------------

(Thorald was returned to the group at this point, in the midst of their fight to protect Kanavin Loxham from the elvish League of Green and the Rellenorian Order of the Lily. He was given a strange box which, he was told, would answer three questions about Ardinor. To this day has not opened the box, waiting until he knows better questions to ask.)

Whew, I forgot how long that was! There's one more "history" post coming before the next real update...
 

Galfridus

First Post
A Strange Encounter

While Thorald was absent, the group accepted a mission to travel to the elvish kingdom of Thelden, where prince Kanavin Loxham had been granted a temporary sanctuary which was about to expire. The group was camped in southern Thelden, still some distance from the prince.

Southern Thelden, October 11 LE 653

Jonetello and Magnimiliar, on watch, hear movement in the woods nearby. They awaken the others and move cautiously closer. Magnimiliar sneaks around in a wide circle to flank whoever (or whatever) might be making so much noise.

Soon a voice calls out: "Hello there!" A slender elf, dressed in strange garments of black and grey, steps out of the woods. Despite being in the middle of a forest, his clothing looks new and unstained. His face is somewhat pale, and he carries a bow and long sword, though neither is at the ready. He introduces himself as "White", an elf from the south who is travelling toward the capital of Thelden.

"Theldentarn?" Mystarion asks, and White looks at him for a moment before nodding.

"Yes, I am meeting…friends there. Are you heading in that direction?" The party is reluctant to discuss their business, but they agree that for the time being they are headed in that direction. They are more free about their past, however, and let it be known that they are coming from the lands of Sygwerdan.

"Ah, Sygwerdan," says White. "He is a powerful ruler, I hear." Several of the party nod: a elder dragon is quite powerful indeed! "I have not been to the court of Sygwerdan myself," White continues, "but perhaps someday I shall. I must admit to not being very well traveled. Is there anything you can tell me of the lands nearby?"

The conversation continues for several minutes, with White presenting an odd combination of knowledge and ignorance. He is well dressed and obviously unacquainted with the forest, but apparently unfamiliar with any of the large elvish settlements. Several people, especially Mystarion and Leilen, notice that White's speech has a strange lilt to it unlike any elvish dialect they are familiar with.

After a while, Leilen grows suspicious, and decides to sneak in a Detect Magic. Quickly, he perceives a couple of Divination auras, a moderate strength Transmutation aura that is fading, and a moderate strength Necromancy spell still active. Dropping concentration, Leilen follows up with Hold Person. He explains himself to his astonished companions; in moments, White is stripped of his weapons and securely bound.

"What is the meaning of this?" he asks in clipped tones, clearly containing his fury. When Leilen tells him of the aura, his reply is quick: "Yes, I am aware of that. Of course." He sighs. "It is a spell, cast on me by a powerful necromancer some time ago."

"By Malefice?" several in the group want to know.

"No…another, who I will not name," replies White. "The spell is dangerous - but only when triggered, and only to me. No, I do not know the trigger." Leilen offers to dispel the spell, but White interrupts his offer. "Would you be sure that your attempt would not trigger the spell? Would you wish to take such a risk?" Silence follows. "I would appreciate being freed now," White continues, his voice bitter. "If you think me guilty, send me to the court of Sygwerdan - surely his men will take proper care of me."

Abashedly, the party unties him. He speaks curtly. "I shall be on my way now. Farewell." White picks up his weapons and heads north up the road toward Theldentarn, not even bothering to look back. The party discusses the encounter for a while, but can make no sense of it.
 

Galfridus

First Post
Episode 12: Numerous Discoveries

Leston, February 15, LE 654

Several days pass as the party members pursue their own interests. Ravenfield purchases a set of woodcarver’s tools and begins making small carvings, selling one or two for a minor profit. He also picks up his spiked gauntlets from Big John, and eagerly shows them off to anyone who will listen (or, failing that, anyone nearby). Leilen and Magnimiliar are off on some scheme of their own, although Malagen remains near Mystarion to serve as a messenger.

Mystarion spends the days wandering the town, looking for interesting items to buy and listening for rumors of interest. In a bar near the southern wall, he finds a pair of elvish travelers playing chess. They have heard of the death of Pierre de Blaumere, but know none of the details. Mystarion hints at a few details, then asks where one might find interesting wares in the town. The elves seem less than impressed by the town’s offerings, but suggest three locales: the Dwarf Quarter, for gems; Weaver’s Street, for "passable" tapestries; and the Halfling Quarter, for a variety of knick-knacks, "although the selection grows poor this far into winter".

Mystarion visits all of these places, eventually making his way to the Halfling’s Quarter. His passage down the narrow streets is noticed by more than one shifty-looking character, and Mystarion’s hand moves quickly to cover the pouch containing all his money. Concerned for his gold, he removes the pouch from his belt and ties it around his neck before entering the nearest shop.

"You’ve got your purse around your neck!" cries the halfling proprietor from the back of the store. Mystarion nods. "Well, I’m not selling to the likes of you. You don’t trust us, how can we trust you!" Mystarion protests, but the halfling is persistent. Finally, Mystarion sighs, then reties the pouch at his belt…with a triple knot. He steps into the store to browse, looking down constantly. After several minutes, he notices that while the knots are still in place, the pouch is gone – cut free.

Mystarion curses loudly in Elvish. "Did you see anything?" he demands of the shopkeeper.

The shopkeeper raises his hands, a paragon of innocence. "Hey, I didn’t see a thing. Those thieves are terrible!" He pauses. "You know, I know a friend who might be able to get your money back."

Mystarion, wise in the ways of magic, is far less experienced in this sort of transaction. "Indeed?"

"Oh yeah…but it’ll take some money to get hold of him. You know how it is."

Mystarion nods doubtfully. "But I have no gold." He thinks. "Perhaps I can get some."

"Sure, sure! Tell you what – you tell me where you are staying, I’ll send word when I find my friend."

"I’m at the Icicle."

The halfling is clearly impressed. "The Icicle, huh? Well, ah, alright, you’ll hear from me." Oddly enough, Mystarion never does.

Mystarion departs and returns to the inn to continue his other pasttime: scrying on Rose. Each evening, he watches from his room for Nip to enter the common room, then uses Clairvoyance and Clairaudience to listen in on a bit of his conversation with Rose. The first night, he hears Rose and Nip discussing the vague rumors about the Knight Commander’s death that are beginning to spread through town. Rose suggests that Nip look into the matter further, adding: "And keep an eye on that elf, the one down the hall. I don’t trust elves." The two fall silent as the evening’s performance begins.

Over the next few days, Mystarion overhears several interesting items:

-- Rose clearly dislikes elves, and orders Nip several times to keep a close watch on "that elf". It becomes clear that Nip, or associates of his, have been following Mystarion through town.
-- As the fate of the Knight Commander becomes more widely known, Rose ponders aloud what effect this will have on his trade caravans come spring.
-- Rose is also interested in Magnimiliar’s budding protection racket; while "Darius" seems to be laying low, Rose wants to be ready should Magnimiliar begin to gain power in the town.

Jonetello spends his time composing. His Ring of Sustenance gives him plenty of late night hours with little to do, so he begins to compose a simple, mostly instrumental song for his upcoming performance. After a few false starts, he finds the right melody and begins building upon it.

Thorald spends several days in the Archbaron’s library, paying a hundred gold each day for the privilege. He first looks for volumes or passages concerning psionics or those with psionic powers: after several hours of fruitless research, he discovers no index or catalog listing them. Rather than peruse each volume, he moves on.

Albreth the prophet, he discovers, made numerous prophecies concerning the Tataiafar Empire, starting in the Tallos Era and extending into the middle years of the Twlight Era. Those who believe that he foretold the future place his birth in the latter years of the Senatorial Era, a century or two before the events he foretold began to come to pass. Those who consider him a fraud, or a poet writing after the fact, assume him to be an elf or immortal who began writing several decades into the Tallos area. Thorald finds references to the same passages he has seen quoted before, each offering a tantalizing fragmentary view into the whole of his works. After several days, Thorald finds an account he has not seen before. It tells of a tower in the far western reaches of the Empire that was rumored to be the home and writing place of Albreth. Soon after it was discovered, however, it was destroyed by a grey dragon of unknown origin that vanished over the waves of the Sea of Tallos. No sign of Albreth’s writings could be found in the ruins.

Thorald also continues his research into the mysterious Knight Order of Ardinor. He finds several new stories about the Order (clearly the Archbaron has a liking for obscure tales and legends), but few contain any significant information. They follow the two usual patterns: a Knight appears to warn of a threat to the Empire (dragons, evil wizards, demons, etc.), is ignored, then vanquishes the threat himself; or a variation of the Epic of Ardinor, wherein the Knights themselves are assaulted and nearly defeated, achieving victory upon the threshold of the innermost defenses of their fortress. One of the tales does possess a passage of interest: a reference to a "scouting patrol" of Knights seeking candidates for their order in nearby villages. Thorald spends some time looking for further references to this kind of patrol, but finds none.

On the evening of the 19th, Mystarion overhears an interesting tidbit from Nip: "The Archbaron’s men are looking for someone – someones, actually. Nobody’s telling, but seems like it’s connected to the Knight Commander guy being offed. Yeah, I’ll keep looking into it."

That morning, the party (at their various inns) is awakened by loud pounding at their respective doors. A herald and escort of soldiers awaits outside, with an announcement from the Archbaron. "Jonetello, Ravenfield, Leilen, Magnimiliar Ivellios, Mystarion Thyastacia, Elbryn, and Thorald Stone" are summoned before the Archbaron that evening. After receiving (and scribing) confirmation from each person, the heralds depart.

That evening, Mystarion waits for Nip to return to the Icicle so he can scry once more, but Nip doesn’t show. With minutes to spare before the audience with the Archbaron, Mystarion departs for Leston Keep. As he arrives, the rest of the party, slightly behind him, observes a halfling-sized figure melt into the shadows of a nearby alley. Jonetello ventures into the alley, but sees nothing. He rejoins the party at the foot of the Keep, and together they present themselves to the guard. After removing all their weapons, they are escorted into the Keep and then to the Archbaron’s private audience chamber.

The audience chamber is small, perhaps thirty feet to a side, with a simple oak chair at the far end. Archbaron Alexander Stonecroft sits in the chair, flanked by several guards and an older man dressed in Blaumere colors who scowls at the party as they approach and give their names.

Alexander questions them about their recent activities in northern Wassan. Jonetello, speaking for the group, gives a terse but accurate account of their encounter with Malefice – "that is, someone who we took to be Malefice" – explaining that after the first fight, they suspected mere bandits, and were surprised to find the necromancer the second time around.

"So it is them," exclaims the older man. "They caused the death of my cousin, and shall be taken to Reln for punish—"

Alexander quiets him with a raised hand. "A moment, Etienne." He turns to the party. "Did you have any reason to believe that your actions would result in the death of our former Knight Commander?" Several heads shake in unison. "And you crossed into northern Wassan via Greenwood Ford, the ford under the control of the late Pierre de Blaumere?" The party nods. "In that case, I see no reason for punishment." Etienne sputters, but falls silent at a glance from Alexander. The look in his eyes suggests that the party avoid Blaumere lands for the foreseeable future.

"That brings us to the next matter. As of tomorrow morning, I will be proclaiming that no passage into northern Wassan for the purpose of combating Malefice or his forces will be permitted, without the express permission of myself or of the new Knight Commander – whoever he may turn out to be. I do not wish to hear of further such incidents, and I’m sure that the Knight Commander’s successor feels the same way. Am I clear? Then you are dismissed." The party departs, retrieves their weapons, and returns to their inns.

When Mystarion enters the Icicle, he notices that Rose is present but that Nip is not. He ascends to his room and waits until the evening’s entertainment is over. As usual, he hears Rose’s footsteps on the stairs, and waits until the merchant has entered his room – then casts Clairaudience inside. He hears several sentences spoken in a strange language, something he is certain he has never heard before. It seems to have elements of Common and Elvish, but is at best a distant relative of those tongues. Lacking the proper spells to decipher the language, Mystarion cancels the spell. Again, Rose is reminding him of someone, but does not know what.

The next evening, Jonetello performs at the Icicle once more, and the entire party attends. Sara Heatherly is there as well, seated next to the stage. Rose and Nip are at their usual table. His performance is truly legendary, evoking respectful silence, then tremendous applause from the audience throughout the first few songs. Once again, Jonetello decides to play something new. The innkeeper shakes his head as the first few chords echo across the room. Sure enough, Jonetello performs adequately, but completely lacking the enthusiasm or empathy of his previous songs. The crowd applauds politely, but their disappointment is apparent. As the applause dies, Jonetello announces he is going to play a new song, something he has just finished writing. The innkeeper hides his face in his hands and heads toward the kitchen. "I call it ‘Sara’s Song’", Jonetello declares, then begins.

Few in the audience will ever recall a prettier song, or a more masterful performance, than the premiere of what thereafter becomes one of the best known songs of Rellenor. Even Nip seems transported by the music – and Sara, needless to say, is ecstatic. The song ends, and there is a period of respectful silence before the audience rises as one and files out of the tavern. "Applause or an encore would be disrespectful," whispers Sara, awe in her eyes. The usual group of bards departs as well, leaving only one well-wisher: Rose.

"A masterful performance, sir," Rose says. "If you don’t mind, I would like to discuss it, and perhaps other matters, in private." Sara looks outraged – how dare someone, after a performance like that! – but Jonetello agrees. Rose, Nip, and the party gather in a small private dining room at the rear of the inn.

"I’m afraid your secret is out," Rose begins. "It is clear to me, through various methods of my own, that you are the companion of the man known as Darius." He gives Mystarion a dirty look. "I should have known that an elf would be involved in such a venture." He expresses an interest in the party’s plans and strategies for gaining power in Leston, but the party isn’t interested in talking. "It would be a little premature," ventures Jonetello.

"To act would be, but to plan? Certainly we could talk of what might come to pass when the snow melts and the caravans begin to roll. I intend to get an early start, running a caravan south into the gnome kingdoms. I would like to be the first – but to ensure that, I suspect I will need assistance from the likes of you. I would be very curious to hear what kind of assistance you might be able to offer." The party declines again. "Very well, but be aware that I can likely be of assistance to you as well. I have traveled to many places, and know many things. Is there anything you might wish to know from me: stories, old tales, legends?"

Thorald thinks a moment, then speaks up. "Do you know anything of the Knight Order of Ardinor?"

Rose’s reaction is startling. He stares at Thorald for a moment, then falls into a paroxysm of coughing, clearly disturbed. Even Nip stares at him in obvious confusion.

"The Knight Order of—" Rose composes himself. "No, I have never heard of that name, I’m sorry to say." He looks about nervously. "I’m afraid I must call this meeting to an end. Good night." He and Nip rise and depart. Mystarion sees a look of anger on Rose’s face as he heads directly to his room.

Leston, February 22 LE 654

The party spends the morning discussing the strange meeting with Rose, the meeting with the Archbaron, and their future. After an hour or so, Mystarion suddenly makes the connection he has been seeking for days: Rose and White. The necromancy spell on each had a similar aura, and their accents bear a definite resemblance. No one can see any reason behind this, and the party decides to do nothing for the time being.

Mystarion, however, disagrees. He returns to the Icicle and seeks out Rose. "Would you mind having a talk – in private?" Rose nods, a look of distaste on his face, and suggests his quarters. "No," says Mystarion, "really private." He casts Rope Trick. Rose studies him intently for several moments, then climbs into the extradimensional space.

Mystarion tells Rose about White: the circumstances under which the party met him, the conversation they had, and the similiarities between the necromantic spells. Rose remains silent through this exposition, until Mystarion is done.

"I thank you for this information," he says, an unreadable expression on his face. "I—well, I don’t know what to say. Please be assured that I will be looking into this matter further, although I am not sure that the talent exists in this town to explore it fully. Perhaps in Merelin there are those who could be of help." Mystarion shrugs. "Well, then, I think I should start right away. Again, thank you, and good day." He climbs from the Rope Trick and returns to his room. Mystarion does likewise.

That evening, Jonetello is spending time with Sara in a nearby tavern. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the door open of its own accord, then close. A cold breeze blows over and around him, ruffling Sara’s hair. "What was that?" she mutters. Jonetello stands and attempts to follow the breeze, but then the door opens and closes again, and the air seems to return to normal – although the smoke from pipe and lantern eddies, as if disturbed by something passing by.

Across town, Ravenfield is in different tavern, drinking and playing the flute as best he can. He, too, sees the door blow open and then closed, and feels a cold wind blow across him. In the smoke from a nearby lantern, he sees a ghostly arm outlined for a moment – and then the door opens and closes once more, and the wind passes.

Thorald is awake in his room, meditating, when he hears a banging at the shutters. He rises to investigate, just as the shutters blow open and a cold wind fills the room. He feels, rather than sees, a presence joining him. "Tiesa?" he calls quietly, looking about him.

The only response is a sound of ragged breathing, followed by a blast of cold air which nearly knocks him off his feet. Thorald looks around, desperately seeking his attacker, but another blast comes before he can react. The strength of the air brings bruises to his skin; he will be dead if this continues much longer. Jumping to the open window, he runs down the side of the tavern and toward Leston Keep, looking for safety. Behind him, a cold wind follows...
 

Galfridus

First Post
Episode 15: "Did you ever get the feeling you were being...watched?"

Leston, February 22, LE 654

"Stalked" by an "invisible" attacker (get it?), Thorald considers his options: none of his companions are at the Mailed Fist (that he knows of); Mystarion's inn, the Icicle, is halfway across town; the Archbaron's keep is even farther. Then, he recalls hearing a tale of the dwarven priests of Moradin, where they overcame an aerial creature in much the same way that human clerics banish the undead. There is a small dwarven community in Leston, tucked against the north wall of the city near Greenhill Gate. He runs desperately in that direction. Each time he comes to a large square or major road, the creature charges him, until he is at the brink of unconsciousness. The invisible stalker cannot match Thorald's speed on the ground; but by taking to the air it can dash ahead of him and lie in wait. Thorald does not recognize this strategy; fortunately, he reaches the Temple of Moradin alive anyway. Unfortunately, the doors are closed. He pounds on them desperately.

"Whaddaya want?" calls a surly voice from inside.

"Help...an air elemental is attacking me!" cries Thorald.

"So? Go find a human priest to help you."

"I have gold!"

The door opens swiftly. "Why didn't you say so?" In short order a pair of warriors and a priest emerge, just as a cold gust of wind gathers in the street outside. The warriors take up a defensive position in the doorway, but the stalker flies neatly over them to attack Thorald. He falls to the stone floor, dwarvish chanting ringing in his ears.

The pulsating warmth of a Cure Moderate Wounds awakens him. "That was some creature," growls the priest. "But it won't be back tonight." He regards Thorald more closely. "How much gold do you have?"

"Five hundred," answers Thorald, mentally setting some of his cash aside.

"Eight hundred and we'll call it even."

Thorald sighs and pays up.

Mystarion is studying in his room when he notices a flicker of movement in a dark corner. He raises his head and sees the vague outline of a hound crouched in the shadows. A pinpoint of absolute darkness marks the spot where an eye might normally be found. Mystarion stands and casts Mirror Image. The hound stares at the shifting images for a moment, then leaps across the room into another shadowy corner - and vanishes. Mystarion quickly casts Arcane Sight: in both corners, strong illusion magic is fading, as if powerful spells had recently been used. Filled with concern for his comrades, Mystarion rushes out the door, ignoring the commotion he causes in the common room, and runs full tilt for the Mailed Fist. His glowing blue eyes sweep the streets for any sign of similar auras, but he finds none. However, the Medallion of Twilight grows cold against his chest, something that has previously happened only when its powers were activated. His entrance into the Mailed Fist attracts the attention of two off-duty soldiers, but his explanation seems to satisfy them. None of his companions are in, so Mystarion returns to his room, letting both spells expire along the way.

Before long, there is a knock on the door. It's Thorald. "I heard a story about seven identical elves with glowing eyes running through the streets and thought you might be in trouble!" Mystarion shakes his head and begins to tell his tale, but is interrupted by a knock on the door. It's Jonetello. "I was with Sara, and overheard some guard talking about a crazy elf wizard with glowing eyes running amok through the inns of Leston..." "I heard that too!" says Magnimiliar from the hallway. Mystarion rolls his eyes, shuts the door, and starts his story again - to be interrupted by yet another knock. It's Ravenfield. "I suppose you heard the story too?" sneers Mystarion. "What story?" replies Ravenfield. "These dwarves didn't like my song and came after me - I ran as fast as I could. What's going on?"

This time, Mystarion manages to complete his story. Then Thorald tells his tale. The party is concerned: who is hunting them, and why? Is it the Blaumeres, Malefice, Rose, or someone else? No one is surprised when a strong knock sounds at the door.

A tall, exotic-looknig woman stands in the hallway, dressed rather scantily in top and pants of thin, green material that looks altogether unsuited to a Rellenor winter. While her hair is blond and her skin pale, her features seem somehow...different from the people of Mordallend. She looks around until she spots Thorald, then smiles. "Ah, at last!" Thorald, still a bit dazed, does not recognize her. "Seriya?" She sighs, exasperated. "Good to know you remember me. It's Tiesa!"

After some hurried introductions, Tiesa explains that she has been sent from the village of Gienmordal [where Thorald journeyed recently - see the recent "backstory" post]. She's been looking for Thorald for a while: a beast of the air had located him in Velland, but then he seemed to vanish. Recently he was spotted by elements of water, fire, and earth - but only tonight when she spoke with a rassa ten was she able to track him down at last. "And then there were all these strange little men with beards, and none of them would tell me where you were."

"Dwarves?" ventures Thorald.

"Dwarves-must have been!" agrees Tiesa excitedly. "Anyway, remember the three tasks you agreed to complete in my village? Remember that you still owe them one? Well, this is it: take me into your service." Thorald, still looking somewhat dazed, agrees.

The party returns to discussing the events of the evening. No one has any idea who might be behind these creatures, or what they might do to discover their identity. Instead, most people are ready to leave Leston and head south, either into Kinfeld or to the elvish lands. Jonetello prepares a note for the Archbaron, declaring their departure and giving assurances that they will not head north without permission.

The following day passes uneventfully for most; however, Leilen receives a message from the council of Magehaven. It seems that one reference to the original works of Albreth was found: a catalog of writings possessed by Malcin the Sage, who dwelt in the county of Valmont some hundred and fifty years ago. The council requests that Leilen investigate this reference. If Albreth's original prophecies could be found complete, they would shed valuable light on the Prophecies of Midnight. However, they require that Leilen make the journey alone, for reasons undivulged. Leilen jumps at the chance; after saying a quick goodbye to Magnimiliar, he heads toward the harbor and passage across the lake to Valmont.

That evening, most of the group decides to stay at the Icicle. Mystarion rents another room for Magnimiliar and Ravenfield, placing an Alarm spell inside to warn of any intruders. Several hours later, a loud banging shakes the shutters of Mystarion's room, where the elf along with Tiesa and Thorald are staying. Mystarion, the only one awake, has time merely to glance up before the shutters are sundered and a cold wind sweeps into the room. Mystarion is pummeled by sharp winds and knocked to the edge of death: but once again, the cold power of the Medallion of Twilight transports him to the realm of shadow. Thorald and Tiesa drop away, and he is in a black and white version of his tavern room. This time, however, a large hound waits in the middle of the room. As the shadows begin to lengthen, it growls and approaches. Mystarion leaps away from its snapping jaws and casts Mirror Image followed by Mage Armor. The hound howls into the shadows. From somewhere outside the room, another hound wails in answer. Mystarion realizes his time is short. Barely avoiding the beast, he summons a celestial bear, then utters the command word of the medallion: "Obilon". He reappears in his room and collapses.

Thorald and Tiesa have been doing their best to battle the invisible stalker. Thorald has it stunned with a Mind Blast and is trying to wrap it in a sheet, but it is too large and strong. Ravenfield and Magnimiliar arrive at the door outside, but Mystarion's Arcane Lock keeps them from entering. Eventually, Ravenfield bashes in the door and the pair rush in to help. Between the four of them, they manage to slay the stalker, which departs this plane in a burst of icy wind. They look at each other, then at Mystarion, realizing slowly that all their healers are gone.

Meanwhile, Jonetello enjoys a pleasant evening at Sara's house. If the wind blows a little sharply against the shutters, he takes no notice.
 

Galfridus

First Post
New update coming soon, In Which:
  • Someone decides they must die to save Mystarion -- does seppuku work with a scimitar?
  • The Blaumeres bring their can of whoop-ass to Leston, and;
  • It is discovered Who Let the Dogs Out.
 
Last edited:

Galfridus

First Post
Episode 16: "Me and My Shadow"

Leston, February 23, LE 654

The cold wind that filled the room dissipates quickly. The invisible stalker is slain; it's apparent target, Mystarion, lies unconscious. The Medallion of Twilight has stabilized his wounds, but no one in the party is able to heal him further. Elbryn makes sure he is truly stable, and bandages his wounds just in case.

"What's going on up there?" calls the innkeeper from the bottom of the stairs. Magnimiliar descends and gives him an abridged version: something invisible attacked the party, it's dead, no danger now. The innkeeper does not seem reassured, and hurries into the street where he rings an alarm bell. Footsteps can be heard approaching. "Of course, we will take care of the damaged door and shutter and any other repairs that need to be made. Three platinum should cover that, don't you think," Magnimiliar asks, dropping the coins into the man's hand.

The innkeeper looks back at Magnimiliar blankly.

"Four, then."

Another blank stare.

"Five - and another for a new room."

A trio of city guards rounds the corner and approaches swiftly. "What's the problem?" their leader asks, giving Magnimiliar a stern look.

"Ah...nothing the matter any longer, it would seem." He recaps the tale, then summons an underling to show Magnimiliar to the party's new room. (They decide to abandon the second room they had rented, just in case.) As quickly as possible, everyone moves all their stuff into the new room.

Across town, Jonetello and Sara are startled when someone begins knocking urgently on Sara's door. It's her friend Louis.

"Sara, I was down by the Icicle and I just heard-oh, you again." Louis' verbal avalanche ceases as he catches sight of Jonetello, and a small sneer crosses his face before he continues almost as breathlessly as before. "I heard the alarm bell and walked over to the Icicle. Some sort of creature attacked a room there-by the time the guards came it was all over, but I saw where one of the shutters was bashed in. As a matter of fact," he adds, staring at Jonetello, "I think it was your friend's room..."

Jonetello bids Sara a hasty farewell and dashes to the Icicle. As he gets there, Elbryn and Ravenfield are checking their previous rooms for any signs of shadow creatures. Sure enough, as Elbryn holds up a lantern, a dog's head turns away, the shadow actually pulling away from the wall before slinking into a dark corner and disappearing. It soon becomes clear that both rooms, and perhaps their new room, are being watched - but the creatures flee when faced with bright light.

The party decides to seek out a priest who might be able to heal Mystarion. They travel to the temple of St. Cuthbert, where the night sentry greets them and quickly agrees to return and help. He applies two curing spells, but while Mystarion's wounds close more fully, he does not awaken. "If that doesn't wake him, none of my spells will," he concludes. "I can wake my superior - he might have more luck." His voice is doubtful, however, and the party does not seem eager to follow this suggestion. "I'll just be downstairs then if you need me." The priest goes down the stairs to the common room, casting a worried look at the blood-stained room where the battle took place.

Mystarion's condition does not seem to be changing. The Medallion of Twilight, resting on his chest, is cold to the touch; in fact, Mystarion himself seems a bit cool. Thorald's Detect Magic reveals an aura of illusion, in particular shadow magic, over Mystarion. Dispel Magic has no effect. Jonetello removes Mystarion's belongings from him, including the medallion, but there is no apparent effect.

The party talks at length about what may have happened and what they can do. The consensus is that Mystarion is somehow trapped in the shadow realm, but there aren't many ideas on how he might be rescued. One obvious possibility presents itself: someone else can use the Medallion to enter the shadow realm and investigate. The item must be worn by an arcane spellcaster to function, but as both Ravenfield and Magnimiliar possess sorcerous abilities, that is not a problem. What is a problem is activating the medallion; as far as anyone knows, being close to death is the only way to make it work. The command word, "Obilon", only serves to return the wearer from the shadow realm.

Finally, Ravenfield takes the medallion and declares he is ready to try it out. Returning to Mystarion's old room (where there's already blood on the floor), he draws his scimitar and begins cutting himself to the point of death. No one tries to stop him, although there are several suggestions that this is not the wisest course of action. Eventually, Ravenfield recants and removes the medallion.

(Out of character, this was a very amusing scene. We had Ravenfield's player yelling "Attack me! Attack me!" while everyone else was asking him what the heck he thought he was doing. "It's OK - if you kill me, you can divide up my stuff," Ravenfield finally said. All the other players stopped what they were doing, looked at each other in silence, then all pantomimed beating the crap out of Ravenfield. Ah, nothing like good old party unity :))

The party decides to call it a night. Jonetello leaves his rapier unsheathed, so that its light will keep the room relatively shadow-free. A watch is posted to make sure no more shadows or wind creatures sneak up on them (no problem!).

Leston, February 24, LE 654

Shortly after dawn, a messenger arrives with a sack for Magnimiliar: inside are two notes (one for Magnimiliar, one for Mystarion) and a pouch of gold with Mystarion's name on it. Mystarion opens the note addressed to him. "It's for all of us," he says, and proceeds to read it aloud:

Gentlemen,

It is with a heavy heart that I must make this hasty departure. I have received an opportunity that I cannot refuse. I am not at liberty at this point to discuss it. I could not leave without saying goodbye. First, to my Closest Friend, Mags. We have traveled far together, my friend. Your humor and your wit have gotten us into and through many situations. You are all that I have known as family and you know if you need me I will always be there.

Jonatello, the mad minstrel, your honor and commitment, and musical ability have been an inspiration.

Mysterion, master of the mystical, your talents surely will carry you far. I just hope your wisdom lets them. HAHA! Patience and caution are 2 traits I value highly and I hope you learn to value them as dearly as I do. Even though we both practice the art, never trust it. It serves its own purpose. Boccob sees to that. Stick close to Mags. You both will need each other, I foresee.

Elbryn, your sword and bow are extensions of your soul, and what a strong soul that is. Your valor in combat is an example for us all. May you always follow the right path.

Thorald, I regret us not being able to discuss more about the order of Ardinor. From what you have told me it is an amazing legend. I would have liked to help you research it more. Your particular talents are like none that I have seen before. I would have liked to find out more about them but time was not kind enough for that. If there is anything I come across in my own research that can assist you I will be in touch.

Ravenfield, I have not known you long, but I wish you well in whatever it is you seek. I hope you find the path that you are looking for and may this group be of as great a service to you as they have been to me.

A couple of things before I go. Mystarion, the pouch is for you. Hopefully you will learn a little more about how the world works. This, of course, you can learn from Magnimiliar.

Two other things. First I believe that White and Rose are somehow connected. I am not sure of the nature of the connection. Rose hates elves, White was an elf, and both have the same auras on them. Coincidence? Who knows.... Second, my gut tells me that Rose had something to do with Thorald's visitor the other night. I believe he is aware of the Order of Ardinor and was not being forthcoming with information pertaining to them. He was SCARED when Thorald mentioned it, then suddenly Thorald gets a visitor. I would press Rose about this. I mean PRESS HIM! I don't like him, and would not feel comfortable just leaving him here with all these kind people. They have enough to worry about with Malefice; they don't need this guy around.

Keep a watchful eye, gentlemen, these are troubling times we are in. I will be keeping a watchful eye on you.

Leilen


As Magnimiliar nears the end of the letter, Jonetello silences him rather forcefully. "There's no need to say this stuff out loud, in case-you know," he whispers, gesturing toward a shadowy corner.

As Mystarion is still unconscious, Thorald opens the pouch, which contains fifty gold pieces, and then the note. He reads quickly, chuckles, and shows it to the rest of the group:

BOOM!

You're dead. Did you check for traps?

Lesson number one: TRUST NOTHING!

Your friend, Leilen


Jonetello announces loudly that he is going to fetch a priest of St. Cuthbert, and asks Magnimiliar and Thorald to come along. The trio head out into the town - but instead of heading toward Temple Square, they have a quiet conversation. They have plans for where they would like to go (which were not shared with the DM!), but will only say aloud that they are "heading to southern Rellenor". They return to the inn and make a point of saying this in their room.

In order to bring Mystarion along, however, some arrangements need to be made. Jonetello makes a quick trip to the market to purchase a wagon and other supplies. Magnimiliar goes shopping for healing potions, and along the way listens for whatever gossip is on the wind. He overhears a very interesting bit of news: early this morning, Rose left town, after hiring a squad of men to act as escorts. Apparently, he is making a tour of Wassan, looking for more trade agreements with local craftsmen. Nip did not go with him; from what Magnimiliar hears, Nip left the Icicle and hasn't been seen since. When Magnimiliar conveys this information to the party, they decide that pursuing Rose might be the best course of action.

Wagon in tow, the party leaves Leston by the southern Market Gate, giving their names to the bored soldiers on duty. As soon as they have traversed the causeway over Leston Bog, however, they turn west, taking an old trail that Jonetello knows will take them around to the north, along the route that Rose must be taking. They travel this path for a hour or so while they discuss their options. Rose has several hours lead on them and is mounted with no wagon to slow him down. He is likely to halt at the village of Seldon - which the party would not reach until midnight after a lengthy forced march. Gradually, the party begins to think that their original plan of returning Mystarion to Thelden makes more sense. As the winter sun reaches its zenith, they turn the wagon around and backtrack, traveling south toward Sygwerdan's land and the long road to Thelden. By sunset, they have reached the main road leading south from Leston. They pass by several villages, but decide to spend the night in the wild in case they are being watched. Jonetello and Elbryn take first watch.

"Dara?" Without warning, a strange figure emerges from the shadows, walking slowly toward Mystarion's unconscious figure. He is wearing a black cloak which seems to blend into the darkness around him. As he comes more fully into the firelight, Jonetello and Elbryn see that his face is blurred and indistinct, as if the light had been formed into a white shadow. They scramble to their feet and awaken the others. Jonetello interposes himself between the man and Mystarion. Several of the others attempt spells, but they all seem to fail, and the man takes no notice; however, several shadowy beasts can be heard growling from the darkness around the campfire. Thorald attempts Control Shadow and receives a mental impression of whirling darkness that leaves him stunned for several minutes.

The man introduces himself as Rasilar, and claims to be a lord of the shadow realm. "I am looking for someone, a woman named Dara, who often crosses into my domain. My agents had been seeking her. Instead, it seems they found your friend here." He peers more closely at Mystarion. "Ah, it must be the amulet." He reaches for it, but Jonetello stands in the way. "May I see it?" the man requests.

Jonetello takes the medallion from Mystarion and holds it up. Rasilar reaches for it, but Jonetello tosses a flask of alchemist's fire at his feet. "See...not touch." The man seems to smile (despite the "white shadow" which obscures his face, his amusement is evident), and a tendril of shadow reaches toward the medallion. After a brief struggle, it overpowers Jonetello, and delivers the medallion to Rasilar's outstretched hand. He considers it briefly.

"I think we have started poorly," he says, slowly. He reaches inside his cloak and produces a large sack, which jingles as he tosses it at Jonetello's feet. "Perhaps this will correct things. This woman, Dara, she is somewhere in your lands. I would be very appreciative if you could find her."

"What about our friend?" asks most of the group.

"The elf? There is a gate opened into the shadow realm, and his soul is trapped there."

"Where is this gate? Can we travel it to rescue him?"

"The gate is inside him; place yourselves there and perhaps you can follow him."

The party seems a bit confused. "Will he be back to normal when the gate closes?"

Rasilar considers. "He will - his corpse will be just like any other. His soul will be trapped in the shadow realm, unless someone of great power can retrieve it."

"Someone like you?"

"Indeed. In fact, if you locate Dara for me, I will promise to investigate the matter further." He raises a hand. Across the fire, a column of shadows rises, spinning round and round like a tiny whirlwind. They part to reveal a tall woman, black-haired, dressed in armor of dark metal and holding a glaive with a black blade. She is regal, stern, and beautiful. Then the shadows close in again and the image dissolves. "That is Dara." He gives the party a brooch: a black metal disk, engraved with a tower, inset silver wire outlining the profile of a face. "Use that should you wish to contact me. Best of luck." He steps back and the shadows rise; when they subside, he is gone.

Thorald looks inside the bag and finds two thousand pieces of gold, all engraved with inscrutable writing on one side, and an unfamiliar face on the other.

As dawn approaches, Mystarion's breathing becomes irregular and he begins to stir. The party gathers around him, but he remains unaware of his surroundings. Suddenly, his eyes fly open and he sits up and breathes a single world: "Obilon."

Then, he lies back down, and dies.

Leston, February 25, LE 654

Their mission to Thelden now pointless, the party reverses direction yet again and heads to Leston. They arrive mid-afternoon, giving their names to the soldiers at the gate, and head directly for the temple of Pelor.

"Slain by shadow creatures?" says the priest there with a frown. "That won't do at all! What can the Light of Pelor do to help you?"

The party makes advance payments to keep Mystarion's body hale for four weeks, in the hope that Dara can be found in that time. Magnimiliar heads into the town to pawn the wagon and pick up rumors - and almost immediately hears that a group of heavily armed Blaumeres arrived yesterday, looking for them. "Yikes!" Acting as one, the party heads for the north gate as quickly as they can. They give fake names at the gate and take the northern road toward Carinth, where they believe Rose was last headed.
 

Galfridus

First Post
Episode 17A: Don't Just Stand There, Get Me a Cleric!

With the death of Mystarion, a new character was to join the group. Mystarion's player introduced Alamar Sunin, a human priest of Ehlonna from western Rellenor. This is the backstory which I gave to him before he joined the group:

List of places
Moonglow Temple: A small temple to Ehlonna, located in Moonvale lands, Loxham County (now Wassan County) in the far western reaches of Rellenor. Destroyed October 31, 653.
Grewell: Closest village to Moonglow Temple, ancestral home (until LE 567) of the Greweled family (former rulers of Moonvale).
Merad: Village west of Grewell at the edge of the wild; last civilized stop on "Wassan Way", the perilous road to the dwarven kingdom of Madrazzar.
Carinth: Trading village on the road to Leston, many days distant.
Canras: Fishing village in eastern Wassan, on Lake Drelmist.

List of people
Faralin: Head priest of Moonglow Temple. Slain October 31, 653.
Erephin: Druid associated with Moonglow Temple. Whereabouts unknown.
Laura of the Oak: Wandering druid who paid occasional visits to Moonglow Temple. Whereabouts unknown.

Edward Deppes: Mysterious blind wanderer; presumed safe in Madrazzar.
Jocasta: Edward's wife, burned for necromancy.
Antigone: Edward's daughter, banished from Carinth for suspicion of necromancy. Whereabouts unknown.
Jord: Childhood friend of Antigone.
Coral: Childhood friend of Antigone.

(Those names above which seem "familiar" came from a long-departed player who created an Oedipus-like history for his character, names and all. Because the player was young and I wanted to encourage him, I kept most of the names unaltered.)

A few winters ago, Faralin brought a blind man to the temple. His eyes had been gouged out very recently, but the man would say nothing of what had happened. Criminals were not punished in such a manner in Rellenor, so there was no option but to lend what help the temple could offer. The man, who gave his name as Edward, insisted he had to leave Rellenor; if that resulted in his death, it would only be just. Moved by pity, Faralin had you tend to his wounds. The next day, Faralin gave the man supplies and a simple item that would help lead him along the Wassan Way to the dwarven realm of Madrazzar. After he departed, Faralin confided to you that he had also asked Erephin, a powerful druid, to accompany Edward in animal form so that he might reach his destination safely and none the wiser for the protection he had received. (Two summers later, Erephin returned to the temple and reported that Edward had been taken in by the Strakeln clan in Gessenheim. Erephin did not have a high opinion of the man: "He rejected nature time and again, saying that the ways of the world had already led him too far astray. At least one Way led him to salvation.") You were glad for his safety, but otherwise thought little of the matter.

October 31, 653 began like any other day. Of course, this was a day on which spirits held great power, but the proper rituals had been performed. You spent the night in Grewell, seeing to the worries of the villagers (who, it must be said, had much to fear from the necromancer Malefice).

The next morning, several villagers told you of bright lights flashing to the south, near the temple. Concerned, you hurried back home - only to find the temple in ruins, burned and shattered by powerful strokes of lightning and fire. All of the priests were dead…or so it seemed. As you moved closer, one figure stirred: Faralin. "The blind man…" he gasped, and expired. You looked around the temple for any signs of what had happened. A recent snow made the tracking easy, but there was little to tell: apart from a few bootprints you did not recognize, there was no sign of any attackers. And, no trail beside your own led into or away from the temple. After burying the dead and gathering what remained of the temple's supplies, you departed, seeking revenge for your slain friends.

At first, you were sure that Malefice, necromancer of the north, was responsible for this deed. You ventured into northern lands known to be under his sway, and battled some of his undead, but discovered nothing. Following stories of a castle hidden in the northern hills, you came to the village of Merad, on the very western border of Rellenor. There, you heard an interesting tale: last spring, a woman seeking a blind man had grown angry and destroyed the old tavern with lightning before disappearing. Six people were killed. You abandoned your war against Malefice in favor of finding this strange and powerful woman.

Traveling east, you found few people who recalled the blind man, but many who recalled an incident in the far eastern village of Canras. There, the strange woman had appeared later that same spring, seeking a girl named Antigone who had been banished from a nearby village. One man claimed to know the girl, but his answers proved unsatisfactory: the woman grew angry and once again summoned forth lightning, killing many before vanishing. One of the survivors overheard her muttering something about a "book of the damned".

These stories led you to the trading village of Carinth, on the road to Leston, from which Antigone had come. The villagers there were very reluctant to discuss any aspect of the terrible story, but in time the truth was revealed:

Edward Deppes was mayor of Carinth. For reasons unknown to anyone willing to talk to you, he blinded and exiled himself several years ago, and was last seen wandering north toward the Wassan Way. Later that year, his wife Jocasta was discovered digging up graves; while some suspected she was merely out of her mind with grief, the fear of Malefice was too close. She was burned for necromancy, and her daughter Antigone was placed on a horse and banished, sent into the eastern hills. Despite these punishments, malevolent forces were not done with the village. Later that summer, one of Antigone's friends, Jord, was found dead near the village, his mouth and lungs filled with frogs. (Laura of the Oak, a druid known to the temple, investigated and later told you there was a strong aura of evil: a force from the netherworld was involved. The site was purified so that Ehlonna would not be offended by such a use of her creatures.) This was the second of Antigone's friends to die; another, Coral, was killed far from the village earlier that spring. Coral, however, re-appeared at the harvest-time meeting. A man bearing some similiarity to Coral, claiming to be Coral, burst into the meeting and tried to warn the people of imminent danger. Some of the villagers say that they recognized him/her - but before they could be sure, a bolt of lightning ripped through the gathering. The same strange woman had appeared outside the hall, and began to slay the assembled villagers. This time, she was not alone: several demon creatures were there to assist, as was Antigone, clad in a sable dress and wielding deadly magics of her own. Together, they killed several dozen villagers before vanishing, taking "Coral" with them.

A few days later, a group of adventurers known to be Coral's companions arrived in Carinth and aided with the cleanup. They were: Kalenthas, halfling priest of Pelor; Thorfinn, ranger; Entia, druid; Grugg, half-orc. They met two others: Jonetello, minstrel; and Thorald Stone, wizard. The strange woman appeared and spoke to them briefly, taunting them concerning the fate of their friend before disappearing. Several villagers overheard the conversation, hearing for the first time the name of the demon who had brought such destruction upon them.

Seriya.

The villagers have taken down the remains of their hall, and now use a nearby barn for their meetings. The dead from that day lie in a special field near the center of the village; nearby, a small shrine stands. Inside, a white candle is always aflame. On the plaster walls, a simple family stands before a lone candle, peering upward into the darkness where a lone woman stands beside an empty road. There are no words and no holy symbols to be found. To you, it seems as if the villagers are seeking a protection, or a salvation, beyond that which the gods of Rellenor have been able to offer them.

You have spent several weeks in Carinth gathering this information. A day or two ago, a strange-looking merchant named Rose arrived from Leston. He held several quick conversations with local farmers and craftsmen, making appointments for several days hence, before taking the road north toward Flanesville and the Wassan Way.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top